PUBLISHED:October 26, 2010

Certiorari granted in Ninth Circuit case citing Coleman article

In a recently published opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit cites the work of Professor Doriane Lambelet Coleman in a case relating to the constitutional rights of children and parents in child sexual abuse investigations. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case in mid-October.

Principally at issue in Greene v. Camreta was whether the actions of a child protective services caseworker and deputy sheriff who sequestered and questioned a nine-year old child suspected of being the victim of sexual abuse at her school for two hours “without a warrant, probable cause, or parental consent” violated the child’s Fourth Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit held that they did. In doing so, it specifically considered the “competing considerations” at issue in such cases, including the state’s “compelling interest” in protecting children and other vulnerable members of society from abuse in their homes and parents’ “exceedingly strong interest in directing the upbringing of their children, as well as in protecting both themselves and their children from the embarrassment and social stigmatization attached to child abuse investigations.”

The court cited Coleman’s work in connection with its balancing of these competing interests:

“‘Of the 3.6 million investigations conducted by state and local agencies in 2006, only about a quarter concluded that the children were indeed victims of abuse. … This discrepancy creates the risk that ‘in the name of saving children from the harm that their parents and guardians are thought to pose, states ultimately cause more harm to many more children than they ever help.’ Doriane Lambelet Coleman, Storming the Castle to Save the Children: The Ironic Costs of a Child Welfare Exception to the Fourth Amendment, 47 WM. & MARY L. REV. 413, 417 (2005).”